By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis elevated five senior clerics from outside Italy and the Vatican to the top rank of cardinal on Wednesday, urging them to be humble and not forget refugees and victims of war, terrorism and injustice.
Appointing new cardinals is one of the most significant powers of the papacy, allowing a pontiff to put his stamp on the future of the 1.2 billion-member Church.
Cardinals are the pope’s closest advisers in the Vatican and around the world and those under 80 years old are known as “cardinal-electors” because they can choose his successor.
The new cardinals come from Mali, Spain, Sweden, Laos and El Salvador and all five are under 80 years old. All of those countries, except for Spain, are getting their first cardinal.
With their elevation at a ceremony, known as a consistory, in St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis has now named nearly 50 cardinal-electors of a total 121.
During the ceremony where the new cardinals received their red hat, known as a “biretta”, the pope said they were called to be humble servants of others and not “princes of the Church”.
They had to “look at reality” and care for “the innocent who suffer and die as victims of war and terrorism”.
They should combat “the forms of enslavement that continue to violate human dignity even in the age of human rights; the refugee camps which at times seem more like a hell than a purgatory; the systematic discarding of all that is no longer useful, people included”.
The new cardinals are Archbishop Jean Zerbo, 73, from Mali, Archbishop Juan José Omella, 71, from Spain, Bishop Anders Arborelius, 67, from Stockholm, Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, 73, from Laos, and Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chávez, 74, from San Salvador.
The Church in Mali has denied recent French media reports about alleged irregularities concerning a bank account reportedly held by the Mali Church in Switzerland. A statement this month denied that it was involved in embezzlement but did not…